COMMENTARY: The Albuquerque Journal has often taken me to task in its editorial pages, and most recently involving the dismissal in the case of Charles Robinson. I accept responsibility and own up to mistakes made by my office. Testing of DNA was not followed up on and, due to the fact that the remaining evidence was very shaky, the case was dismissed, with the option to re-file.
The lesson learned was important and we have made changes to prevent this from ever happening again.
We are now attempting to review all cases prior to indictment and submitting DNA/fingerprint/firearm requests. (This may be difficult in 10-day cases where we do not have all the evidence.)
Once a case is indicted, the assigned prosecutor must do a prompt review of scientific evidence that may warrant a request for testing. The prosecutor must make their own request for testing, even if a detective has also done so. They are also responsible for verifying that the request for service has been sent and received by the lab, and then they remain responsible for contacting the lab for updates and to share deadlines.
Further, we are doing more frequent supervisor case reviews, specific to homicides, and reviewing compliance with all LR2-400 deadlines.
Of importance is to note that there are other evidentiary issues that could have and may prevent this case from moving forward. The DNA that was ultimately tested did not significantly add to the evidence needed to prove the case.
We are in the process of evaluating if we can ethically proceed with a prosecution. There appears to be, at this time, a lack of physical evidence and a key witness is refusing to cooperate. To hold the District Attorney’s Office accountable for all the criminal actions of Robinson is patently ridiculous, and disingenuous.
Unfortunately, I have never been able to promise perfection in our work, though we have strived for perfection in our effort. Given the thousands of cases we handle and the many more thousands of deadlines we must meet with the extreme lack of resources, the real story is how we do so well with so little.
This case consumed many hours of preparation, response to motions, pretrial interviews and numerous hearings. A lot was done right.
Finally, the Journal’s contention that “change is sorely needed” at the DA’s office is a long-standing complaint. That, despite the fact I have served in this office longer than anyone in history and secured support for my performance from the people of Bernalillo County in four elections.
Having said that, I believe that, as our city grapples with unprecedented economic and criminal justice issues, and if new leadership is indeed the solution, it is needed at all of our major institutions.
I would include in that the leadership of our daily newspaper.